March 20, 2011

ICANN Approves ‘XXX’ Domains

The board of directors of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) approved the creation of ".xxx" Internet domains on Friday.

The agency, which oversees the Internet's naming system, has made the decision after a decade-long battle over the ".xxx" registry.

Religious groups say that giving adult websites their own corner of the Internet legitimizes the content.

Pornographers fear governments could try to mandate the domain's use so that pornographic content is more easily blocked.

Diane Duke, executive director of the adult entertainment industry's Free Speech Coalition (FSC), said in a statement that ICANN has "disregarded overwhelming outpouring of opposition from the adult entertainment industry" and dismissed the "interests of free speech on the Internet."

Supporters of the new registry said that approving the domain is in keeping with the principle of openness that has help sparked the Internet's growth.

ICM Registry and its CEO, Stuart Lawley, hope to profit from the rollout of ".xxx" websites.  He will be in charge of collecting fees for the use of the new domains.

Lawley plans to charge registrars $60 per year for the domain names.  He said that he could sell as many as 500,000 by the time he rolls them out this summer.

"This was always going to be a very lucrative arrangement," he said in an interview Friday with The Associated Press.

The decision by ICANN did not include whether to approve guidelines that would clear the way for essentially any Internet address endings.

"We think we are pretty close to a workable policy," ICANN board chairman Peter Dengate Thrush told AFP. "It's all part of a mission to create competition, diversity and choice."

The board scheduled a meeting in Singapore on June 20 to vote on confirming a guide book outlining the path aspiring domain operators would need to follow to use a suffix of their choosing.

It is not mandatory for adult websites to use .xxx addresses, but studios will be under pressure to start using them in order to avoid confusing people looking for them on the Internet.

"We are disappointed but we are not surprised by the ICANN board's decision,"  Duke said in a statement. "They have disregarded overwhelming outpouring of opposition from the adult entertainment industry."

FSC said it plans to fight to undo the decision and will advise studios not to get .xxx website addresses.

ICANN said last year that it had over 110,000 pre-reservations for .xxx domains.

Initial approval for the domain was given in 2005, but this was rescinded after protests from politically conservative groups.  ICANN said it was worried then that it would be asked to police content.


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